By Stephan Lee
June 27, 2012 at 08:05 PM EDT

Nora Ephron, who died of acute myeloid leukemia last night at age 71, was perhaps best known for her films When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Julie & Julia — but she began her career in words as an essayist, and remained one throughout her life. Her essay collections — and for that matter, her 1983 novel Heartburn about her messy divorce from journalist Carl Bernstein — were funny, sharp, relatable, and highly personal, and they became even more so in her later years. Click through for some of the most memorable zingers, observations, and bon mots from her ever-quotable books.

NEXT: Wallflower at the Orgy

Wallflower at the Orgy (1970)

“The image of the journalist as wallflower at the orgy has been replaced by the journalist as the life of the party.”

“Some years ago, the man I am married to told me he had always had a mad desire to go to an orgy. Why on earth, I asked. Why not, he said. Because, I replied, it would be just like the dances at the YMCA I went to in the seventh grade—only instead of people walking past me and rejecting me, they would be stepping over my naked body and rejecting me.”

NEXT: Crazy Salad

Crazy Salad: Some Things about Women (1975)

“I have no desire to be dominated. Honestly I don’t. And yet I find myself becoming angry when I’m not.”

“We have lived through the era when happiness was a warm puppy, and the era when happiness was a dry martini, and now we have come to the era when happiness is ‘knowing what your uterus looks like.'”

“When you’re tall, thin, blond, and have big boobs, you can have any job you want.”

“My girlfriends, the ones with the nice big breasts, would go on endlessly about how their lives had been far more miserable than mine … I have thought about their remarks, tried to put myself in their place, considered their point of view. I think they are full of s—.”

“I don’t know a great deal about life in Washington for women — I spent a summer there once working in the White House, and my main memories of the experience have to do with a very bad permanent wave I have always been convinced kept me from having a meaningful relationship with President Kennedy …”

NEXT: Scribble Scribble

Scribble Scribble: Notes on the Media (1979)

“… there is no reason to confuse television news with journalism.”

“[If] Playboy’s Hugh Hefner has done nothing else for American culture, he has given it two of the great lies of the twentieth century: “I buy it for the fiction” and “I buy it for the interview.”

“I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.”

“… porn [is] … anything that people are ashamed of getting a kick out of.”

NEXT: Heartburn

Heartburn (1983)

“I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish I’ll know how it turned out.”

“I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn’t work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.”

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”

“Every so often I would look at my women friends who were happily married and didn’t cook, and I would always find myself wondering how they did it. Would anyone love me if I couldn’t cook? I always thought cooking was part of the package: Step right up, it’s Rachel Samstat, she’s bright, she’s funny and she can cook!”

“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”

NEXT: I Feel Bad about My Neck

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (2006)

“I live in New York City. I could never live anywhere else. The events of September 11 forced me to confront the fact that no matter what, I live here and always will. One of my favorite things about New York is that you can pick up the phone and order anything and someone will deliver it to you. Once I lived for a year in another city, and almost every waking hour of my life was spent going to stores, buying things, loading them into the car, bringing them home, unloading them, and carrying them into the house. How anyone gets anything done in these places is a mystery to me.”

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”

“There is something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens when a deep-sea diver spends too much time at the bottom of the ocean and can’t tell which way is up. When he surfaces, he’s liable to have a condition called the bends, where the body can’t adapt to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. All of this happens to me when I surface from a great book.”

“… the amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.”

“Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it’s your last, or do you save your money on the chance you’ll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in American is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?”

NEXT: I Remember Nothing

I Remember Nothing: And other Reflections (2010)

“I am living in the Google years, no question of that. And there are advantages to it. When you forget something, you can whip out your iPhone and go to Google. The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn’t it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up…. You can’t retrieve you life (unless you’re on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).”

“From the essay “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again”

“1. Journalists sometimes make things up.

2. Journalists sometimes get things wrong.

3. Almost all books that are published as memoirs were initially written as novels, and then the agent/editor said, This might work better as a memoir.

6. Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.”

“Everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. Whether you eat six almonds a day. Whether or not you believe in God.”

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